Shikamaru scowled to himself as he adjusted his position in the trees. He had already done as much research as he could on the other's technique as possible without having to actually watch the other boy. But he still had to gauge his abilities-- he'd only seen so much at the preliminaries, after all.
Asuma-sensei was training him like a dog, but at least this way he didn't have to actually move, just observe. Providing, of course, that the Hyuuga protégée was too focused on his training to notice him spying in the trees boarding the training field.
He watched Neji's moves with a bored disinterest, wondering how long he was going to keep training; he'd been at it for hours now and Shikamaru had grown bored and sleepy a while back, but he knew that his sensei would somehow just know if he stopped watching before he stopped training. And that would mean double training for him.
Looking up at the sun between his exercises, Neji noticed he had been at it for a good four hours already and he decided it would be time for a break. He was thirsty from working out beneath the hot Konoha-sun and a small break would only enable him to train longer afterwards. Sighing, he picked up the water-bottle from the ground and took a small gulp from it, before he, without turning towards his watcher, sat down on the ground.
"Have you seen enough?" he called out, having long ago noticed his watcher, but he had been too preoccupied to bother before now. After all, it was just his normal morning exercise, not secret techniques or anything even remotely like that he was training.
"You can come down now," he added after a while with a smirk. He didn't know who it was; his chakra-signature was not familiar to him, or he had at least not bothered to remember it had he met them before. Which would of course mean it wasn't a worthy opponent.
Shikamaru let out a snort, debating within himself whether it was worth it to even move. Since the other had obviously seen him, he could just start napping finally. Of course, sleeping in a tree was never as comfortable as on the grass or in a bed.
"Troublesome," he murmured to himself before swinging one leg to the other side and jumping down into a squat. He ambled over with a yawn, stopping a few feet from the Hyuuga.
"Ah..." Neji's eyes turned uninterested again once he discovered who his watcher was. Nar...a. Nara, he thought was his name, but he was not certain; not that it mattered. Raising an eyebrow elegantly, he remembered that the younger boy had been one of those weak rodents that had asked for his autograph during the second part of the Chuunin exam. It was almost enough to make him snort in amusement; what kind of man wanted another man's autograph anyway? Of course, he did not let his amusement show on his face.
"Water?" he offered silently once the other had sat down not far from him, and he remembered that the other boy had been outside beneath the warm sun just as long as him, although he had not trained during that time, the heat was enough to make anyone thirsty. Not that Neji would ever admit to needing water, he merely enjoyed the luxury of having it available during his training-sessions; he could very well go without it.
Shikamaru raised an eyebrow before nodding his thanks, reaching and taking the bottle. He took a short drink from it and handed it back. He hadn't been aware of how thirsty he really was until he drank the cool water, but it wasn't his or a teammate's so held back from draining most of it.
It was an awkward silence now, but he didn't see the point of forcing small talk. He covered his mouth as another yawn broke out and he reclined himself, lying on the grass.
He was glad he didn't need to spy anymore, but he wasn't going to stop watching just yet. And if Neji didn't want him there, he'd have to say so.
Taking his bottle back, Neji frowned at it a little, feeling the urge to wipe off any spit that was left from the other nin, but for the sake of courtesy he just put it down. While he didn't care if he offended some lower, less gifted shinobi, his manners disagreed with him. He would just make sure to wash it thoroughly later.
Pretending not to notice the pressing and awkward silence between them, Neji closed his eyes and folded his legs. He could just as well do his meditation while they were sitting in silence like that. However, after a while he could feel the urge to twitch. Not used to company, he was a little unsettled by the silent presence beside him, but, not wanting to admit that it was bothering him, he forced himself to sit quiet.
Shikamaru glanced over, breaking his gaze from the clouds, and studied him. He was sitting straight, legs folded, which he knew was correct, but he was sure that the forced stiffness wasn't. Even with his loose shirt on, the Nara could see the other boys' muscles tensing and quivering as he tried to calm down.
He could tell he was the cause of this uneasiness, but he also knew that had to be something a ninja had to deal with-- especially one hoping to become a Chuunin.
Rolling his eyes, he sat up and slumped forward, not caring about posture like his companion. He rested his chin in his hand, elbow propped up on a knee and he smirked.
"Meditating only works when you're relaxed, you know."
"I am aware of that," Neji replied rather stiffly, shooting the younger one a glare. How dare he presume that he knew more than him? Unfolding his legs, he sat normally, though still rigidly. It seemed it was useless to even try meditating when this younger boy was nearby. It irked him, but so far only his team, and his family, had seen him meditate, and he just wasn't used to having anyone else there. Had he already started meditating he didn't think it would have been a problem, because he would be too focused. As it was, he was not. He made a mental note to improve just that. Doing some breathing-exercises he knew would calm him, he tried again, and this time he did better. Though the fact that the other had noticed was still annoying him.
Shikamaru's smirk widened as he continued to observe Neji. He wondered why he didn't tell him to leave since he was causing that much turmoil. Maybe it was a pride thing? He'd never understood why pride was such a huge issue, though. Well, expect for against girls, but that was different.
After a moment's thought, he spoke again, "So how much do you train?"
Feeling the other's eyes on him, Neji blinked almost startled as the other spoke up unexpectedly. Mulling a bit over the question, he peeked at the other boy from the corner of his eyes.
"Why do you want to know?" he countered with after a while. The other was probably spying on him train to learn some secret techniques, or... well, just spying to know how to fight against him. After all, he hadn't forgotten the exams weren't over yet. They might have to fight against each other in the final part.
The Nara just shrugged, shifting so he was looking up at the sky again. "You were training for a few hours and, unless you're too tired to even walk home, it doesn't look like you're stopping yet," he said.
He shifted his gaze again, but kept his face tilted upwards. "And if I'm not mistaken, you train every day."
"Hn," Neji just replied confirming what the Nara had said. He had to give him that; he was good at analyzing people, even him. Which annoyed him. Neji was not used to being easily read by anyone, much less a brat younger than him, that was, probably, complete crap ability-wise.
"This is just my morning exercise," he added after a while, not having a clue why he gave away that much to the other, but he felt that it needed to be said. He wouldn't want the other to assume he was lazy like him.
So this was just a warm up to the Hyuuga, he thought, wondering how he hadn't grown too tired yet. He would have stopped at least an hour ago-- there was no use over-exerting yourself, in his opinion.
"Hm, I guess that explains why you missed the target a few times," he mumbled to himself. He was hoping that had just been the extent of his ability, but that obviously wasn't the case.
Neji stiffened at the last remark, and if he hadn't performed his breathing exercises, closed his eyes angrily, his looks would have killed. He had not missed! At least that was what he told himself, but he knew, deep down, that the other was telling the truth.
"No," he replied stiffly, once he had swallowed his indignation, "it does not.” That it was a warm-up session had nothing to do with it; it was the blind spot of the byakugan, but the other did not need to know that.
Shikamaru raised an eyebrow, turning to fully face the other. "So then why did you miss?" he asked, genuinely curious and not just fishing for information. He knew Neji was ranked up there with Sasuke and with good reason. He wouldn't just miss an unmoving target so easily.
Neji almost grit his teeth. Had this brat never heard of not letting his curiosity get the better of him? Either that, or he was a damn bad spy, which he had already proved by getting caught. Either way, he was not going to answer that question, just in case it could be used against him. Remaining silent, he dried off the other's spit on his bottle as discreetly as possible before he took another mouthful of water.
Shikamaru rolled his eyes when he didn't get an answer. He was being overly cautious, especially when the Nara hadn't even wanted to be in the Chuunin exams in the first place. It had just been easier than being the target for Ino's wrath.
But he wasn't one to pull teeth for information, so he just dropped it, letting the silence stretch out.
Taking a last mouthful of water, deciding that if he had any more, it would only hinder the rest of his morning exercise, Neji stood up after putting the bottle back into his bag.
"I shall continue my training," he told the other, letting him know it was up to him to stay and watch or leave; he did not care either way. Meditating was one thing, but he could train in front of anyone without a second thought. As long as it was nothing he should not show his enemies, it was nothing different than sparring against a stranger. As long as you did not reveal too much, it was alright, and Neji gave away nothing.
Shikamaru made in a noise in the throat in acknowledgment, eyes trailing after the other as he moved away. He might as well observe as much as he could, even better that he didn't have to be on alert.
Taking a deep breath, Neji got into his gentle-fist style and started training. Smooth, flawless movements that looked like tai-chi in fast motion, he moved, swirled and hit with a natural grace and flow that was not given to many people alive. Losing himself in the familiar movements, he no longer was consciously aware of his watcher.
Shikamaru watched him with a steady and critical eye, gauging his movements and eventually he was able to predict what movement and direction the Hyuuga would use. At times he could tell that Neji was holding back, trying to throw him off.
After close to an hour, he starting letting his gaze and mind drift, eventually lying down again and just cloud-gazing. Nothing new was happening, so why bother waste good lounging time like that?
Just as the dark-haired boy lay down, a kunai, barely a few inches above him, made a loud /thak/ as it embedded itself into the trunk of a tree right beside the Nara. Obviously, Neji had started another part of his training. Other sounds were heard at the same time, indicating that he had thrown several at once and then the older boy stilled, looking up into the air.
He frowned, displeased with himself. Yet another time he had miscalculated, and he silently damned his blind spot.
Shikamaru blinked, a bit startled, after the kunai flew over him. He let out a sigh and lifted up his head a little to look at the other, frowning himself at the other's expression.
He could guess what his problem was; he relied on his kekkei genkai too much, but from what he'd heard from Naruto about Sasuke that wasn't something you just told them, especially even if they weren't your teammate or friend, for that matter.
Taking a deep breath, Neji made the hand-seals and called forth his byakugan, using it to get a good, almost full-view of his surroundings. He would defeat his blind spot even if it was the last thing he did. Sighing, he looked towards the other genin. True, he could wait with that until he could train with Tenten... But she was probably much too busy training herself privately from messing up so horribly against that Suna-nin, and this one, though he should be, was not so busy training.
"You!" Neji looked pointedly at him, making it clear that he was talking to him. The brat was probably nowhere near Tenten's level, but it would do... for the morning exercise. "I have a request."
Shikamaru rolled his eyes upward and heaved a sigh as he pushed himself up into a sitting position. He looked at Neji was a small scowl, wishing he could just relax now.
"What is it?"
"Attack me with weapons from all directions... if you can." He smirked at the younger boy, taking it into account that he had no talent whatsoever with weapons. However, he had to ask as he really needed the practice. And he would like to break his blind spot without any help from his uncle, thankyouverymuch! Of course, Hiashi had offered, but Neji had refused out of pride. However, that meant he had some hard work in front of him; work he could not do alone, as much as he would have liked to.
Shikamaru raised an eyebrow and muttered a quiet 'troublesome'. He glanced up, studying the trees for a few seconds before forming a box with his fingers. Less than a minute later, he stood up with a sigh and looked at Neji.
"If you have wire in your bag and will help gather up the kunai you threw earlier, I will."
Just nodding, Neji took a second to find all his kunai with his byakugan.
"The wire's in the front pocket," he replied before he went off to find his weapons, gathering them one by one, making sure they weren't damaged. When he had gathered them all, he went back to the younger boy and dropped the weapons to the ground.
"There's more in the bag," he said softly, sitting down to rummage through it and find his other weapons.
Shikamaru nodded and went over to the other's bag, kneeling and taking out the roll of wire. He fished through his own weapon's pouch, taking out his ninja wire. He carefully tied the two ends together. He hoped there would be enough length to circle the clearing.
He gathered up all the weapons without another word and disappeared up into the trees. He made one shadow clone and started setting up the weapons, lining them up sporadically along the wire. Minutes later, he had them in every tree surrounding the clearing, the wire pulled tight as a trigger, himself on one side and his clone on the other.
"Ready?" he called out.
Watching the other disappear, Neji waited patiently in the middle of the clearing while the other set up his trap. While he waited, he did some stretching, knowing the small break had made his body cool down enough to warrant such exercise as not to obtain any physical damage. At the other's call, he snorted softly to himself. How gallant.
"It is not much of a surprise if you announce all your attacks," he called back arrogantly. "Shinobi have no need of such warnings."
Shikamaru smirked. "Just making sure I won't take off an ear of yours or something."
He counted to ten in his head before physically throwing a kunai, making his clone throw two in succession. He did this, building up the amount quickly, taking a few second break before finally pulling the wire and setting the rest of the weapons off towards the Hyuuga. Immediately after, he threw handfuls of senbon and shuriken at the same time as his clone.
His byakugan already activated, Neji noticed at once when the first kunai was thrown. Getting into his familiar stance, he quickly started spinning, turning, twisting his body while his hands darted out; fending kunai away from him along with the other weapons being thrown. Taking familiar steps to keep his balance, he silently admitted to himself that the younger boy did know how to handle his weapons. He wasn't Tenten's level, but he was pretty good. However, he would never say such a thing out loud.
Shikamaru released his kage bushin after all the weapons had been thrown. He observed Neji's moves from up the tree. He'd heard of this technique before, but this was his first time seeing it in action. Heavenly spin.
He jumped down from the tree, landing in a squat and inwardly hoping he wouldn't have to fight against him in the match. The only way to beat him would be to immobilize him, which he could do but he doubted the Hyuuga would let himself fall into his shadow possession jutsu.
Standing still with perfect balance once the last weapon dropped to the ground, Neji smirked, satisfied. True, he had faced worse before when training against Tenten, but still. Not one weapon had nicked his skin while out there, despite his blind spot.
"It wasn't too bad," he acknowledged before he started collecting his weapons. Looking at the sun, he decided that it would be the end of his morning practice. While he normally wouldn't skip practice for anything, today he had to start planning a more complicated training schedule for himself because of the last part of the Chuunin exam that was only days away. There was no time to waste, and if he doubted his regular training, it would cover it all. He was going to be prepared when the time came.
Shikamaru smirked again, letting out a soft snort at the other's comment. While Neji was gathering the weapons, he started re-winding the wire, cutting it when it got to the knot-- no use wasting energy trying to unknot it. He started doing the same to the other side, handing over one of the rolls to the older boy once finished. He gathered up the rest of his weapons, putting them all back away before looking at Neji again.
Once he had packed his bag and was ready to leave for a light lunch, he looked over at the other boy. A second passed before he looked away again, slightly irked that he had to thank someone his inferior for his... assistance. He refused to use the word 'help' even to himself. Neji just didn't need help. Ever. Period.
"Thank you for your assistance," he said stiffly, not mentioning with one word the spying the other had done. After all, it was pretty much harmless, and what did a ninja do if not spy on others? It was all part of the game, as stated at the first Chuunin test. There would be no use in getting upset over such a small detail. In fact, he probably should be flattered that someone wanted to do research on him. Well, would be, if the other had been stronger, and it hadn't been his job.
"I shall see you at the finals," he added before starting to walk away, frowning at himself. Why had he said those words? It had been utterly pointless, and Neji didn't do pointless.
Shikamaru shrugged. "It wasn't too troublesome," he said, though wondered why it wasn't. It had been more work than he was hoping to do all day. But at least he could tell his sensei that he'd trained. And (he inwardly smirked) he could just imagine Ino's jealousy if he told her that he had trained with her second biggest crush in Konoha.
He just lifted a hand in farewell, debating whether he should leave or just slack off for the rest of the day.
Nodding in acknowledge he had heard him, Neji returned to his room in the Hyuuga complex, thoughts already moving onto his training plan the next days.
The day for the exams arrived without further ado, much too fast. Getting up early as usual, the Hyuuga started his morning exercise, stretching and actively readying his body for the day. He also made sure to eat his breakfast; perfectly balanced to give him all the nutrients he needed, but nothing more. He was about to leave for some extra training before the tournament, but hesitated for a second. Remembering the boy from yesterday, Neji smirked and grabbed a piece of paper and a pen. Scribbling something down on the paper, he carefully pocketed it and left.
Shikamaru covered his mouth as he let out a huge yawn, trying his best to tune out Ino's yakking. His teammates had found him a few hours later after ‘training’ with the Hyuuga and before he could explain anything they'd started ragging on him.
Now, the next day they had a little time, Ino had demanded that he did the same so she could watch the Hyuuga in action. And it was easier to just not argue against her, so they were making their way towards the same training area.
Neji was at his usual spot, once again trying to crack his blind spot in the few short hours he had, and he smirked with satisfaction as he noticed the area he couldn't see had narrowed the past days. Perhaps he one day would be able to eliminate that spot completely.
However, he twitched soon as he heard several footsteps approaching and he stopped, not even turning to see who it was.
"Bringing the fanclub?" he asked sarcastically, casting a wry look at the female that had arrived with him, and the other boy, whom, he might add, looked... fat. Not showing his distaste of the body-fat, after all, he had heard of a clan that relied on just that, he frowned at the girl's skimpy outfit. Not only did she look like a slut, but he was certain that if he looked any closer, he would find her ribs sticking out from her dieting and starving herself. He knew the type. It would be the type he would stray far away from, and that Tenten would bitch about constantly whenever she was in a bad mood.
Shikamaru let out a sigh, scowling. "I wasn't even planning on coming back. She dragged us here," he said, knowing that if Neji was any less good-looking, he would have gotten slugged by Ino. Couldn’t look bad in front of him, right?
Instead she just glared at him and huffed before turning her attention onto the Hyuuga, putting on a saccharin sweet smile.
The Nara rolled his eyes, making a face at Chouji, who laughed as he crunched on his ever-present chips.
Narrowing his eyes as he eyed the blonde's fake smile, obviously trying to charm him or something, he sighed and gave her a glare.
"Get lost," he just told them. Having the other boy, Nara, spy on him was one thing (or at least attempting to spy on him), having to babysit a group of younger Genin’s another. Besides, he had planned on testing his real skills once more before the exams, to make sure what he had practiced really stuck. He didn't think they hadn't, but he would rather practice one time too many than not.
"I do not have time to waste on you," his words were cold, exactly like he had intended to. Also, if the Nara's words were true, the girl was stopping him too from doing some last training before the exams.
Ino pouted, twirling her bangs with a finger and trying to look coy. He had to fall for her eventually, after all she was the top kunoichi in her year and beautiful to boot.
Shikamaru snorted and just turned around. "I told you he wouldn't want us around," he said to Ino.
"I said get lost," Neji eyed the female distastefully. "You are annoying," he added, picking up a kunai. If she didn't, she might get an uncomfortable surprise. Oh yes, indeed. Neji would send her running faster than you could snap your fingers. Not by force, no, Neji did not do violence like that; it was beneath his dignity, but there were other ways.
Shikamaru sighed and grabbed Ino's arm, starting to drag her off, Chouji trailing along behind and glancing back at Neji worriedly every now and then.
Ino scowled once she wasn't facing the Hyuuga and started complaining under her breath.
"Oh, like you thought you had a chance after in the forest?" the Nara muttered. "Besides, you said you had to work a shift at your family's flower shop before the exam tournament."
Sending the other boy a thankful thought, Neji went about with his training, this time undisturbed by anyone.
A few hours later, he had done showering and drying his hair completely, and went on his way to the exam itself, excited to know who he would get to fight. Neji frowned; there were quite a few weak people that had gotten through to the final round. He really hoped he would not be paired up against any of them. It would be disgraceful for the clan, and he would not enjoy an unfair fight. Making sure the note was still in his pocket, he walked towards the arena. He was certain his uncle and cousins were already there, seated in the best seats there were; aside from the Kage's, that is.
Shikamaru stood in the middle of the arena, wondering yet again why he was still going along with this. He just hoped he wouldn't have to fight against the Hyuuga, Aburame or that creepy Suna-nin. He thought he had a chance against the others, though not much of one...
He glanced around, seeing all three of the Suna-nin's hudled together and Shino standing silently. He stuffed his hands into his pockets, wondering when the other four were going to show up.
Arriving, Neji noticed that most had already turned up even though the time had still not run out for meeting up. Looking around, he noticed that the Uchiha had not arrived yet. Oh well, there was still time for him to show up. While the younger boy was clearly inferior to himself, Neji thought that if he was paired against him, the fight would indeed be interesting.
Looking at the Nara, who looked bored to death, Neji slipped the note carefully into his pocket, secure that no one would as much as notice. Besides, he smirked to himself, the boy had indeed asked for it earlier.
On the note was To Nara - Hyuuga Neji scribbled down.
Shikamaru shifted, quirking an eyebrow at the sound of paper crinkling. He brought out the piece of paper and glanced down at it. He blinked a few times, turning it around but all that was on it was those four words and there couldn't be anything hidden on it, Genin weren't taught things like that.
He looked up, over at the Hyuuga and raising his other eyebrow in question.
Lips twitching slightly in amusement, Neji made a small gesture that meant 'later' to the younger boy. After all, it would certainly be noticeable if they started chatting before the exam. Slipping a piece of paper into the boy's pocket was one thing, talking another. He could only imagine the gossip that would spread between all the ninja of Konoha, not to mention what his uncle would think.
Shikamaru sighed before pocketing the paper. He would just have to ask him later, then. Now they were just waiting for Naruto, Sasuke and that Sound Genin...